I’ve attended two major technology conferences on both sides of the world in the last month, and I’ve been struck by the commonality of the messages. Technology platforms are feature rich, hardened (they perform safely at scale), and have the user at the heart of their decision making. Technology now provides readily available capability to your business to transform the way you service your customers and operate your business. There’s no clunkiness to it either. This is schmick – driven by the same principles that have transformed our individual relationship with technology through the smartphone. Technology is delivering on its promise to enable dramatic business improvement – the question is, are we embracing it?
The AWS Summit in Sydney, and the MuleSoft Connect event in San Jose both showed an incredible pace of innovative delivery based on being highly responsive to customer and market feedback, matched with an overwhelming focus on supporting their clients and partners.
As always there are ‘fun’ demonstrations to showcase some ‘outer limits’ of capability. But such gimmicks – delivery drones, robots shaking hands, and the virtual ‘assistant’ (have you seen what Google showcased at their conference? Impressive!) – belie the very concrete improvements that can be delivered to your organisation now. They are a representation of an innovation process, arguably bleeding edge, that will over time deliver a more matured and hardened technical capability that your ‘everyday’ organisation can take advantage of.
So what is being delivered?
- Platforms that release and promote new services to your customers in weeks
- Platforms that scale the traditional IT function – enabling business stakeholder to ‘self-serve’ many of their IT initiatives
- Platforms that minimise coding errors through pattern/ service reuse principles and sophisticated monitoring and validation capability
Technology providers have reshaped their solutions to provide flexibility. Open development standards, multiple deployment options, subscription commercial models now afford you the opportunity to run with multiple technologies based on their particular strengths and your particular needs. Closed platforms that ‘technically engineer’ brand lock in as part of their business model will no longer thrive.
The leading providers mark their success on yours. With the promise of more interchangeability, ‘shelfware’ means death. Better partner enablement, Success Managers and better education assets reflect that whilst the renowned vendor hype might still exist there is a very pervasive mindset on follow through.
A good example of this is a discussion I had with one of the Product Managers about how they manage the impact of frequent code/ feature release afforded by cloud-based CI/CD capability. I’m currently struggling with my own ‘release fatigue’ with the almost daily interruption of version upgrades on a consumerised business app. He shared with me the ‘Readiness Framework’ they are maturing where consideration is given to five stages of technology consumption, from developer to the customer’s customer. This human centred development will further enhance the adoption of the technology.
And the results are in. These conferences showcased numerous examples of game changing improvements to how technology is delivering for business – 50% reduction in developer onboarding time, 50% reduction in integration development time, over 50% reduction in defects reported.
However, you can’t abdicate the responsibility for the success of digital transformation to the software and its vendor. You, and how your organisation modifies its own behaviours, are the key to success. Even with sophisticated and mature integration platforms, which are very technology centric, Gartner predicates levels of success with platforms being ‘delivered and managed in a coordinated fashion’.
So what do you need to get moving?
Certainly C-Level support is critical. Their longer-term view is perfectly aligned to the roadmap thinking that the IT team must craft. Having a seat at that business level will enable you to understand and adapt to their needs. You will need to build their confidence in the strategy – mitigate risk. Start with the start in mind. Undertaking POCs or POVs (Proof of Value) can provide tangible insights that drive confidence and refine direction. As the term suggests, transformation is about a maturing of your digital capability that will happen over time, not overnight.
Avoid the “I’ll have what she’s having” moment. Looking externally at another’s technology decisions and assessing suitability for your own circumstances presents significant risk. In the infamous movie scene ‘When Harry Met Sally’, a diner observes Sally and mistakenly sees the desired outcome as, well, you know, when in fact Sally’s real objective was to prove a point to Harry. And of course, the outcome had nothing to do with what she was eating, but everything to do with the effort and commitment Sally put to reaching her objective.
We might be a little biased, but a better way to install confidence and embrace change is through architecture. One of my colleagues, Riaan Ingram, provides some detail on the architectural approaches that facilitate progress. Taking a service-oriented approach is a given, but look for this both in technology and in teams. Focus on providing patterns and enabling reuse, and perhaps most importantly abstract your innovations and development away from the technology to be more adaptable as technology options inevitably change.
Futurist Gerd Leonard eloquently expressed, in a world where everything and anything is being digitised, “anything that cannot be digitised or automated will become extremely valuable.” If you’re searching for that value, take a look in the mirror.